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Friday, May 25, 2012

Guest Blog: Tim Baer on E-book Pricing

Today on the MRM blog we are joined by Tim Baer, indie SciFi author of Will Write SciFi for Food and Will Write SciFi for Food, Too, discussing e-book pricing.

Pew!  Pew!  Pew!
(Or, Big Publishing—You're Going Down In Flames!)

There I was, flat on my back, 20,000 miles above the galactic plane, when it struck me!  No, not the fact that traditional publishing is price gouging its customers—it was the caffeine in my coffee.  I blinked my eyes and focused on the road I was driving, raggedly dragging my mind along with that focus.

I spend a lot of time on the road.  A lot.  It's part and parcel with being a truck driver.  Thusly, I get to do a lot of thinking (read: daydreaming).  It's also when I do a lot of my writing—interspersed with moments of frenetic scribbling in a spiral notepad when I get to location before I lose the thought (note to self:  I have got to get a voice recorder).  I now have two anthologies of my short stories out for sale, along with a free, stand-alone short story.  The two anthologies are (what I consider) reasonably priced.  My original one is only 99 cents, and the newer one is $1.99.  Why those prices when traditional publishers are charging so much more?  Because I don't like the price gouging that traditional publishing is inflicting on its customers and I believe e-Books should be less than $5.  That's right—I said it.  Traditional publishing houses are price gouging the consumers (that's you!)—and consumers (that's you!) are happily paying their exorbitant prices.

I've heard too many people fuss online about the Indie Authors and how substandard their books are.  I have to concur.  There are way too many lazy authors out there pimping a substandard ware.  I mean, c'mon—how hard is it to hit f7 and run a simple spellcheck? 

These readers use the poor quality in Indie books to sniff-snuff them and only purchase books by traditional publishing houses.  And the big houses are more than happy to help you in your endeavor by hiking up their prices to ensure you can tell the difference between that 99-cent Indie piece of rubbish, and their $12 slicks.

You think I'm kidding?  I just popped up Amazon and pulled the latest Science Fiction books (the genre I write in).  Penguin is offering one book by Charlaine Harris for $12.99, and another by Deborah Harkness for $14.99.  Simon & Schuster is offering a Stephen King for $12.99.  Let's compare that to the cost of the same books in hardcover.  Charlaine's book is $11.44, Deborah's is $17.37, and Stephen's is $10.00.  So with the exception of Deborah's book, it's cheaper to purchase a hardcover than a Kindle version. 

There is no cost for the electrons used to make a new e-Book, not like there is in the paper and ink that has to be purchased to create another copy of a hardcover book.  So why is the electronic version more expensive than the costlier-to-produce hardcover version?  Because Big Publishing is scamming and gouging the consumer, and the consumer is happily letting them—but I repeat myself.

I'm not saying that I'm on the same level with Mr King's writing abilities.  Far from it.  Compared to him, I am but an egg.  But I am able to weave a competent tale that will take a reader away from reality for a few moments in time and properly entertain them.  I have several characters that my fan base has told me they expect to see more of in the future (well, demanded is more apropos). 

I've priced my books as high as $2.99, which I thought was a fair bargain for the product offered.  If I were selling books by the thousands (instead of by the dozens) I might see their worth as high as $4.99.  But that's it.  I have no overhead in the production of my works—other than time, energy, electricity, and internet connectivity.

Yes, yes—Big Publishing has lots of overhead:  editors, proofreaders, sales staff, marketing staff, advertising—the list goes on.  But when you shy away from dead-tree books and meander over to e-Books, there is a serious drop in overheard.  They don't need to purchase the services of a printer.  They don't need to purchase a warehouse to keep the stock in.  They don't need to hire a trucking company to deliver the final product to the bookstores.  They upload the book to Amazon (or Barnes & Noble) and then that file is electronically duplicated (at no extra charge to them) hundreds/thousands/millions of times.  Pure profit.

So here I am, down on what amounts to the Dollar Menu, while Big Publishing is offering up their Super-sized prices, making the consumer think they are getting more for their money, when, in fact, they are getting the same thing either way—an escape from reality in an entertaining form.  Mine just leaves you with enough cash left over to buy a gallon of gas so you can drive to town to splurge on some donuts to nibble on while you escape into the pages of my worlds.  It's so simple, even Tunk would understand it.  (Sorry, you will have to read about Tunk in Will Write SciFi for Food, Too, available for your Kindle or Nook at your favorite e-Book store!)

It's time the readers sent a clear message to Big Publishing that they are tired of being gouged.  An e-Book should not cost more than the hardcover.  Indie authors are capable of turning out a product that can compete with Big Publishing—and at a fair price.  Be different.  Support Indie Authors.   Viva La Revoluci√≥n!

Next week we're going to delve into the intricacies of micro-singularities, and whether or not they can be used as a safe and cost effective way to achieve faster-than-light travel.  So brush up on your quantum physics now!

Construction truck driver by day, Indie Author/photographer by night (and opinionated at all times), Tim Baer is a Desert Storm veteran living in Texas with his wife of 20+ years, his two adult children, some dogs, a few Texas horny toads, and a cluster of cats.  When he's not busy driving, pounding out more SciFi on his laptop, or fussing about with his camera, his time is taken up serving his cats, the LORD, his wife, and his dogs—not quite in that order (but don't tell the cats).  The horny toads?  Well, they're too busy eating ants out in the yard.  We'll just leave them alone until such a time as they need to be incorporated into the ongoing story.


  1. Excellent post!

    Evidence to support the idea that Big Publishing is ripping consumers off: The $19.99 price tag on the pre-order of J.K. Rowling's new novel.


  2. AMEN Brother, AMEN! There is NO reason in the world that E-Books should cost as much OR more than a hard copy!
    And btw, you said it very well - kuddos!

  3. I agree with everything you have written with the exception of one small point. As a consumer, yes I have been paying the over priced rates for the e-books - but certainly not happily.

  4. Thanks for the terrific post Tim! Anonymous, there are a small number of authors for whom I will pay sticker price for a kindle book, but I am more likely to wait for used copies of the print books to hit the market and buy them then. I can't imagine that is what the publishers had in mind when they priced the e-books high to protect their print sales.

  5. Thank you all for the great comments. MRM, I honestly don't know why they price them so high. It was simply a guess that they feel that by pricing them that way would "prove" to the consumers that it is a better product. I have seen blog posts by consumers who have stated that they will not purchase an e-book that is less than $5.00--believing that it is an indie (correct) and thus, sub-par (maybe not correct).

    @ Any-mouse: I stand corrected. I should know better than to make sweeping generalizations. =D


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